Keith Newman

Keith Newman Light trails Firework

The upcoming Open Days

I'm presenting at the upcoming Maths & Stats Open Days, but the planning extends far beyond the presentation itself.

I can be a bit of a perfectionist. If I make a PowerPoint presentation or a Word document, it will be fastidiously aligned and formatted into a visual masterpiece. But the cost of such attention to detail means tasks take far longer than they should - My houseplants have wilted and died in the time it takes me to produce a simple report.

Perhaps the untimely deaths of several potted plants are worth it though. Few things rival the satisfaction of a job well done. Knowing that the outcome will be something I'm proud of and may even impress someone else, are what drive me through hours of preparation and planning.

This week, I'll be helping at the first of four Open Days for the School of Maths & Stats. It won't be my first time doing this - I'm actually the most experienced helper this year having helped for the last two years. But unlike previous years where I've simply lead Campus Tours, I'm one of the six students playing a key role by presenting to the visitors.

I never actually agreed to do it. As someone who rarely commits to anything in advance, I gave my standard "I'll think about it" response, which somehow got interpreted as "Of course I'll do the presentation!" Confused as to why I am suddenly doing this job, I paid little attention to preparing it. But it wormed its way into the forefront of my workload, and suddenly I was trying to make it perfect - Suddenly I cared about the Open Day.

Hours of my time went towards preparing the slides, creating a script and then rehearsing time after time. The presentations should go well. But like a patch of mould growing across a block of old cheese, my attention spread to think about the rest of the Open Day, particularly the Campus Tours I'd done so much of in the past.

My favourite part of the Open Days were always leading groups of 40 people on Campus Tours. Last year I gathered a reputation of doing these well - My proudest moment being described as "the King of the Campus Tour" by another helper. I put myself forward to update the Campus Tour script given to all Campus Tour leaders, adding the traits that have made my Tours so popular in past years. Unfortunately, I added some of the terrible jokes I use along the way. Being a Word document it took ages because I made sure everything was aligned properly, but hopefully it will help this year's tour leaders give an entertaining tour.

And I went further by suggesting that we film a Campus Tour. One which could be played to visitors in case the weather prohibits us from doing an actual tour on the Visit Day. I'm well versed with photography, but filmography is a whole different kettle of fish. Video cameras are unfamiliar to me, while video formats are an absolute enigma to everyone. The amount of preparation that has to go into a video is truly staggering, and scripted filming ranks among the most stressful logistical nightmares.

But for all the hard work we pour into this, it will hopefully make a difference. These Open Days play a huge part in recruiting students to Newcastle University, and securing the continued success of the School of Maths & Stats.

At the start, all I had to do was prepare and practise a presentation. Soon enough I found myself going above and beyond the call of duty. And if the Open Day's presentations and the Campus Tours prove to be successful, then all the hours of planning and preparing will be worth it.

And the Peace Lily will not have died in vain.

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